Each year, I speak to the first-year law students in my class about depression and mental illness — and the need to seek help. Law students often assume that problems like depression are rare when they are quite common among lawyers and are not barriers to professional development. Now, a study has concluded that roughly one in ten Americans suffer from depression and one in 30 suffer from major or manic depression.
Because the study excluded homeless and prisoner populations (known to have higher rates of such problems), the real figures are assumed to be much higher.
What is striking about this study is the sheer size of the surveyed population. Over 235,000 adults were surveyed between 2006 and 2008 in 45 states and Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The study was carried out by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
One interesting finding was that seven percent of people who had not completed high school suffered major depression as compared to four percent of high school graduates. Moreover, women were more likely to suffer from depression than men — and blacks and hispanics were more likely than whites. Finally, young people were more likely to be depressed than people over 65 years old.
Such studies are important to show students that depression is a common problem in every group of society regardless of profession, class, race or gender. The most dangerous thing is to try to hide it or handle it on your own. Many successful lawyers deal openly with depression and have successful and even storied careers. The only danger is denial. For more information for GW students, visit this site.